FLORENCE — On a warm autumn evening, a young woman and her little sister wait for a sheriff’s detective to meet them in a local park. They harbor a terrible secret.
In two days, that secret will spark the most horrific violence to ever befall their small town. But they can’t know that now as a car pulls up carrying Farrah Turner, a seasoned Florence County investigator with a heart for children and experience handling the worst crimes against them.
To Farrah, the young woman unfurls the secret.
She explains that her sister, only 12 years old, confided that a burly man named Seth Hopkins had been sexually assaulting her for three years now, most recently two days ago.
The young woman adds that she is coming forward because Seth abused her for years, as well. She doesn’t want her sister to suffer any more.
Seth is 28 but still lives with his parents and many adopted siblings in a house where the young woman says the abuse took place. That house, a grand brick fortress, overlooks one of Florence’s leafiest neighborhoods with a veneer of fortune.
As Farrah investigates, a source calls with a tip: Seth has been collecting his victims’ underwear, squirreling them away in his upstairs bedroom.
On Oct. 3, two days after the park meeting, Farrah secures a search warrant, then gathers a team to head for the Hopkins’ house. But first, she runs a routine computerized program that assesses potential dangers to deputies based on such factors as the incident location and the history of the people involved.
It identifies no need for particular caution.
As the team heads out, none of them thinks much about Seth’s father, Frederick Hopkins, a 74-year-old Vietnam combat veteran and sharpshooter with well over 100 firearms in his home collection.
Around 4 p.m., Farrah drives west of downtown Florence. Fellow sheriff’s detectives Ben Price and Sarah Miller, along with two forensic investigators, join her. They have an appointment to interview Seth — but also come armed with the search warrant.
Driving in a small caravan of mostly dark-colored, unmarked Dodge Chargers, they enter Vintage Place, a neighborhood of stately brick homes built on generous tree-lined lots. It is the time of day when school buses rumble through neighborhoods and parents begin to arrive home from work.
The caravan happens to pass their boss. Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone moved into the neighborhood just a week earlier. He stands in his driveway helping his young daughter from the car.
His agency has about 150 deputies, and the sheriff of 13 years knows them all. But he doesn’t know every assignment or call they handle, particularly if it's a routine matter. He wonders what brings them to his neighborhood.
As his deputies pass, he waves.
Farrah, an athletic 36-year-old once named Investigator of the Year, turns onto Ashton Drive. It is a long straightaway that dead ends at the Hopkins’ red brick house, a 6,580-square-foot behemoth with white columns that looms over a cul-de-sac.
There is one way in. One way out.
To the left sits another large house, a two-story home with a pool. To the right, an undeveloped lot. Behind it, deep woods.
The caravan enters the narrow mouth of the cul-de-sac. Starting at the Hopkins’ house, each driver parks, forming a half-moon. Forensic investigators Chase McDaniel and Arie Davis are in a marked vehicle.
Arie, who’s 24, is nearing the end of her shift. She has church choir practice that night.
The house before them is among the biggest in the neighborhood. Its front is bibbed with a raised porch. On one side, a set of white French doors leads inside. Beside the doors, two sets of floor-to-ceiling double-pane windows offer whoever is inside a wide view of the front porch, the cul-de-sac and the long straightaway ahead.
Farrah heads up to the porch first with Ben and Sarah behind in the front yard. Sarah, the red-haired daughter of a retired state trooper, has been to this house before.
Five years earlier, she responded to a call here from a county building employee, Richard Allen Cusack, who’d come to take pictures of the Hopkins’ pool following a complaint. When Cusack tried to leave, Fred Hopkins suddenly ran up to him, snatched his camera and spun him around, landing him on his back.
Fred handed the camera to his son Seth and told him to delete the pictures. Cusack, a retired deputy, called 911. He figured that Fred saw him as a government agent interfering with his life.
Sarah charged Fred with third-degree assault and battery.
As she approaches the house now, Fred and Seth are both inside. She doesn't know that Fred, a disbarred lawyer, has two military-style assault rifles and a pistol close at hand.
Farrah bounds up six steps, heading toward the glass front doors.
Ben and Sarah approach several paces behind.
Arie and Chase linger near their truck. Their job is to gather evidence, so they’ll wait until the detectives are ready for them.
Suddenly, gunfire explodes. A bullet strikes Farrah in the abdomen. She dives off the porch, toward small bushes to her left.
The gunman turns to the other officers.
A round strikes Sarah in the chest. Another shatters Arie’s lower left leg. Ben and Chase seek cover and return fire.
Slipping behind their forensic truck, Chase sees that Arie is bleeding profusely beside him. Major arteries flow down a person’s leg. If one is severed, she could bleed to death quickly. With gunfire blasting, Chase glances around for a tourniquet. His plastic evidence gloves are within reach.
He bands them around her leg. But they snap.
Gunfire seems to echo everywhere.
Seeing no other options, he grips both hands around her leg, squeezing to stanch the blood loss. He uses his body weight to apply pressure and cover her as bullets fly. Both devoted Christians, they instinctively pray together: “God, please just get us out of here safe and alive.”
There is no cover except for the vehicles. Sarah reaches one. But Farrah lies bleeding in the yard.
Ben tries to reach her from one side of the house. Gunfire explodes anew, filling the neighborhood with fear. Whoever is shooting is so close. Even if the injured officers could run, they’d be fully exposed for at least several seconds.
They are trapped.
Arie sees that she’s hit close to her knee, but she doesn’t realize that the force of the bullet has exploded down her calf, breaking her tibia, shredding muscle and skin, leaving a gaping wound.
Everything feels numb.
From inside the brick fortress, the gunman can see about a half-mile down Ashton Drive. A police cruiser races down the road toward the house.
Driving the car is Sgt. Terrence Carraway, a 52-year-old Florence police veteran who just days earlier, after several close calls over a long career, decided it is time to retire. He is among city officers descending on the neighborhood to help. Some are off-duty. Some are working other jobs.
Terrence slows to park in front of a house a block down from the cul-de-sac. Just as he steps out, a round blasts into his chest inches above his bullet-proof vest.
He slumps to the ground.
Behind him, fellow city officer Sgt. Scott Williamson, a 42-year-old father of two, races down Ashton Drive in his vehicle to assist.
A bullet strikes him in the head.
Disoriented, he passes Terrence, veers off the road and crashes into the front of the next house, the last one before the cul-de-sac. Inside, a man in his early 20s is cooking when he feels what he thinks is an explosion. The force of the crash lifts up the laundry room floor. Walls crack. Water pipes break.
He sprints upstairs to his brother, who had been playing video games in a bedroom facing the Hopkins’ home before dropping from his chair at the sound of shots. The players on the other end of that video game heard the gunfire, too.
The brothers huddle in a hallway away from the windows.
Almost four football fields away, city police officers Travis Scott and Brian Hart turn onto Ashton Drive and park. From that distance, they don’t see anything unusual up ahead. They don’t know where the shooting is coming from.
Travis steps from his car. A bullet strikes his abdomen. The blast sounds like a cannon firing.
Brian, lifting his rifle from the trunk, turns. A bullet strikes his left ring finger.
From the cul-de-sac, Ben hollers into his radio: “Do not come down here!”
A half-mile away, Sheriff Kenney Boone is still in his driveway when he hears popping sounds. He opens his car door to listen to the radio inside.
Ben’s voice greets him.
“Do not come down the road!”
Boone hops into his car, rushes to the entrance of Ashton Drive, and blocks it to keep residents from the line of fire. Then he hurries down a back road with first responders to set up a staging area along a connecting side street. Two sprawling brick houses sit between them and the Hopkins’ house.
Terrence lies in the road about 150 feet away. But when anyone moves on Ashton, gunfire explodes.
They cannot reach him. They cannot reach the others.
The giant house's shattered glass windows stare down the street. From somewhere inside, one or more skilled gunmen has a high-powered rifle and is picking off the police officers.
At 4:38 p.m., the West Florence Fire Department is dispatched to Vintage Drive.
“Can we make access to the patient?” a man asks over the radio.
“There is no way at this time.”
Emergency crews close off the entire neighborhood.
A man at the scene barks, “This situation is not getting any better. Please, please stay out of Vintage Place.”
Sheriff Boone gives an order: Take this guy out. Kill him.
Holed up inside the house, nesting in a central spot on the first floor, is a U.S. Army veteran named Frederick T. Hopkins Jr., once hailed as a hero.
In 1970, at the age of 25, Fred received a Bronze Star after being wounded in Vietnam. Then a captain, he served as an artillery liaison officer when a huge enemy force attacked one of the Army’s firebases.
The sky rained mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. Amid death and blood, Fred helped to ferry medical supplies to the firebase and, with mortar rounds blasting, rushed them across an open area toward a medical aid station. One exploded right behind Fred, pitching him over a sandbag buffer.
Mortar fragments tore apart his right buttocks, severing critical nerves and partially paralyzing his right leg. Despite his injuries in the attack, which left more than two dozen American soldiers dead, he remained on active duty for seven more years before retiring.
In 1977, Fred returned home to his first wife and two little boys, both of whom would grow up to become police officers.
His wife soon became concerned about his flashbacks and erratic behavior under stress, worry that prompted him to begin several years of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the same time, he turned to the law for his future. He’d already earned degrees in astronautics in New York and, in 1980, graduated from the University of South Carolina’s law school.
Then his life began to fray. His 16-year marriage ended and, in 1984, he was disbarred for charging about $18,000 in wrongful attorneys’ fees and then failing to repay most of it to the probate court, as ordered. He was found in contempt.
His six-month sentence was suspended upon condition he lose his law license and comply with a state Supreme Court order to pay up. His new wife, Cheryl, a prominent Family Court attorney in Florence, took on the debt jointly.
Given he’d emerged from the Army a skilled shooter, with accolades for pistol and rifle accuracy, Fred turned to competitive shooting for fun.
“I love the smell of gunpowder in the morning,” he liked to say.
He also loved collecting guns. Lots of them.
Just eight years before the terror on Ashton Drive began, Fred had called deputies to report that someone had stolen $43,100 worth of his firearms, including the type of Bushmaster semi-automatic used to kill 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
At times, Fred expressed on Facebook the enjoyment shooting brought him. Around his 70th birthday, he posted about taking his 12-year-old son to a service rifle match at a favorite range in Lexington County. He had a great time firing his M14 rifle, set up like one he used in Vietnam.
“The guys at the range sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me — gosh, it doesn’t get any better,” he posted.
However, PTSD symptoms still plagued him. He'd later describe flashbacks to combat, nightmares and a "mercurial" temper. He also experienced "stroke-like collapses" that he said required hospitalization and other treatment.
One episode happened a year before the deputies arrived on Ashton Drive. That time, he said, he became unresponsive to pain and awoke crying that his men were dying, the enemy closing in.
But if anything has defined Fred's life leading up to that Oct. 3 day, it is his large family.
He and Cheryl adopted nine children, who range from 28 years old on down to elementary school age. They adopted all but two as newborns and, a while back, served as foster parents, as well.
Now, as he holes up on the first floor, four of his adopted children are inside the house. Including Seth.
Fred will later say that when police descended on his home, he mentally snapped back to a Vietnam combat zone, becoming as determined to protect his children as he once was his men.
“Saigon-mode,” he'll call it.
Outside, the Hopkins’ neighbors cower inside their homes. Next door, inside the only other house on the cul-de-sac, three young children hide in a bathtub. Police dart through their yard.
A little farther away, a family hunkers in a closet. The parents feed their young kids Cheerios after scooping the children from their yard at the crack of gunfire.
Police fire hundreds of times at the Hopkins’ house, unsure where the gunman is holed up. Windows in the house shatter. The gunman fires back. Bullets strike the neighbors’ cars, their homes, police cruisers, anything in their path — some flying as far as six blocks away.
Three dozen officers converge on the scene. They surround the Hopkins’ estate in a desperate effort to reach the wounded. Officers who crawl over grass on their bellies and crouch through bushes hear bullets whiz over their heads.
When anyone makes a move to recover the wounded, even as police spray the house with suppression fire, gunshots erupt from inside again. Ben and Chase, the only two officers in the cul-de-sac who aren’t shot, struggle to get word out about what they can see.
Beside Chase, Arie keeps hearing on the radio: “Officer down! Officer down!”
She knows Farrah, her mentor and church friend, is shot. But she doesn’t absorb who else, if anyone, is.
Chase tries to radio in every detail he can while holding pressure onto Arie’s leg. As they hide behind their truck, their phones buzz with calls and messages from terrified family and friends. Among them is Chase’s pastor.
That call he answers.
“Pastor, I’m in a gunfight.”
“I’m praying for you,” the man promises.
The smell of gunpowder fills the air.
The grand facade that towers over the fallen officers, its windows now blasted out, masked trouble long before these moments.
Boone could remember getting calls for the Hopkins' children running away, stealing and disturbing the neighbors. At least three of the deputies who lie wounded have dealt with Fred, Cheryl or their children before. Police records show officers have responded to calls reporting alleged inter-family violence, child endangerment, burglary, theft, property damage, drugs and drunken driving.
Back in 2013, Fred called deputies alleging that his then 18-year-old son Kyle had smashed a front door and kitchen window. Kyle reported that Fred had threatened to shoot him if he came inside.
Later that year, Cheryl reported that Kyle had gone into a rage, throwing a mirror and a hairdryer at her and hitting his sister in the face with an office chair. Seth added that Kyle punched him and left saying he would “come back and kill the whole family,” a deputy wrote in a report.
A few months later, deputies returned.
This time, they arrested Fred for allegedly assaulting the county worker with the camera. Later, they charged Kyle with punching Fred in the eye and in a chest catheter. Fred told a deputy that he was battling advanced cancer, which he believes he got from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.
Deputies returned yet again, this time when the Hopkins accused Kyle of grabbing his 13-year-old sister by the hair and punching her in the head.
Yet Kyle also wore his family pride for the world to see. By 2016, when he went to prison for second-degree burglary, he'd gotten a tattoo splayed over his back that read: Hopkins. Across his chest, laced in clouds and doves, a tapestry of tattoos listed the names of his parents and eight siblings with the words "Family First."
Police reports continued to show troubles. In mid-2017, the Hopkins' oldest child told deputies that her brother pushed her into his truck and drove her to a rural road in Darlington County. There, she said, he punched her in the head repeatedly before dumping her onto a dirt road.
She said she begged him not to leave her there. But he did.
Another report describes Seth bringing a pocket knife to an adult education program. Still another mentions a teenage son running away for weeks on end. Another describes two of the Hopkins' adult children smashing a window to Cheryl's law office. In another, Fred goes missing for several days.
And in still other incidents, police find the Hopkins' oldest daughter driving drunk with young siblings in the car. In one, police arrest her for speeding while intoxicated, saying she had marijuana in her possession, an open bottle of Bud Light Platinum in her car, and her 7-month-old sibling sitting in the backseat, unrestrained.
Twice, Florence city police responded to restaurants at which Fred and Cheryl had left young children behind. In one instance, they left their 3-year-old daughter at a pizza joint for almost two hours before Fred, back at home, realized she was missing.
Despite all that, not many people around town know Fred Hopkins. But they do know Cheryl.
The 65-year-old runs a law practice specializing in matters of the family: divorces, child welfare cases and adoptions. A burgundy-colored sign out front promises “We handle emergencies.”
As five officers lie trapped and bleeding, the Hopkins’ children cower inside the brick house. One is 28 years old. Two are teenagers.
When Sheriff Boone learns they are inside, it adds more risk to figuring out how to rescue the fallen officers they cannot reach.
What if the gunman takes them hostage?
What if he kills them?
What if police unintentionally shoot one?
The Hopkins estate includes a large main house, where the gunfire is coming from, and guest quarters to the left. The two buildings are connected by a raised walkway along the first-floor roofline.
Police reach the Hopkins' children by cellphone and realize they are in the guest quarters hiding in a shower.
A negotiator talks to Fred on a different cellphone.
Stop shooting. Let us get these people out.
Stop shooting. We need to get these people medical attention.
They realize that gunfire is coming from the first floor and that Seth is hiding on the second floor. He is shot in the upper body, but the wound isn't life-threatening.
Boone opts to fight in this warzone using armored machinery. Thanks to military surplus, he has access to a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, called an MRAP, designed to protect soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire.
The MRAP can drive like a truck, up to 70 mph. But it is in Effingham, about 30 minutes away.
Boone orders it brought to the scene. Immediately.
Every few minutes, he badgers his personnel: “Where is it? Where is it?”
An hour has passed since the shooting began.
When the hulking vehicle barrels up, smoke wafts from its brake pads after the driver’s furious race down country roads, escorted by officers’ blue lights. Four teams of rescuers wait, anxious to recover the wounded.
Boone sends the first group straight in.
“Get Terrence first,” he orders.
As the MRAP rumbles down Ashton Drive, gunfire erupts again. Undaunted, it pulls in front of Terrence, shielding him as a crew waiting inside springs out to lift him to armored protection.
The MRAP backs down Ashton Drive.
The team delivers Terrence to the staging area. They load him into a county pickup truck and race him to the front of the neighborhood. Ambulances and air support wait to rush victims to one of the city’s two hospitals.
But it is too late.
Terrence succumbs to the wound to his chest.
The MRAP marches back down the street toward Scott Williamson, the severely wounded officer who crashed into a house. Its driveway cracks under the military vehicle’s weight.
Under gunfire, the MRAP rolls next into the cul-de-sac to retrieve Sarah and Arie. Then it barrels closer to the house, toward the front porch, and to Farrah.
Once all three deputies are safely inside, it heads out again.
Arie doesn’t realize how badly her leg is mangled until paramedics load her into an ambulance. She turns to one.
“How bad is it?”
The paramedic begins to cry.
“I don’t want to see it,” Arie tells her. Then she prays again — for herself, for Farrah, for anyone else wounded.
Paramedics lift Sarah into the ambulance beside her. The deputies know each other from the office, but mostly in passing. Now Arie clasps Sarah’s hand.
“It’s going to be all right,” Arie assures.
Yet terror wells up inside. Her leg, she realizes, is destroyed.
Then the pain sets in, a massive and overwhelming agony. She retrieves her cellphone, now filled with texts and calls.
She dials her mom first, to let her know she’s alive.
Her mom hollers and cries. Arie blacks out.
The MRAP barrels down Ashton Drive again toward the house, this time within feet of the front porch and the area where the Hopkins' children are hiding.
They rush out into the vehicle.
So does Seth.
The armored vehicle rumbles away, one last time.
Now for the shooter. Boone figures that if he has to order the MRAP to barrel straight through the front door to take out the threat he’ll do that.
At the same time, law enforcement leaders from around the state have been calling to offer help. Among them is the chief of the State Law Enforcement Division. He tells Boone they have mobilized a SWAT team. They will send whatever he needs.
“Chief,” Boone conveys, “I appreciate it. It’s not that we don’t want you. We just don’t need you. This incident is going to be over in 10 minutes.”
The MRAP rumbles away from the house, back up Ashton Drive, and onto the side street where Boone is staged. With relief, he watches the Hopkins’ children step down from it. But when Seth emerges, he thinks: You piece of dirt.
Just then, Boone hears:
“He’s walking out unarmed. He’s walking out. He’s giving up.”
Fred Hopkins emerges from the house. Boone’s anger turns to worry. With tensions so high, seven officers wounded, at least one dead, what if one of his deputies shoots the unarmed suspect?
They grab Fred and take him into custody.
Just days before, Terrence Carraway had decided he finally felt ready to retire. His wife, Allison, had been nagging him for a year to leave.
They’d found an application for a security position at the federal building where several retired officers work. When Terrence had stopped at home just a few hours before the shooting, Allison promised to fill it out for him.
“Love you,” he told her before heading back to work. Allison laid down then and fell asleep.
Now an acquaintance knocks on the door of her home in rural Darlington.
Terrence has been shot, the woman says.
In the other room, Rashad Carraway has just read chatter on Facebook about several police officers shot in Florence. The 25-year-old called his dad, but Terrence didn’t pick up.
The Carraways head to a local hospital. They figure Terrence, a brawny man, suffered a minor injury, maybe a graze wound to an arm or leg. They know he would’ve been wearing his bulletproof vest.
An officer greets Allison at the hospital. When she turns the corner to the ER, fear sets in. The waiting room is full of police officers and sheriff’s deputies. She can feel their eyes on her as she’s led into a private office with her son and his fiancee.
A doctor tells Allison her husband didn’t make it. He pats his shoulder to show her where the bullet tore into Terrence’s body.
Her husband’s boss walks in. Crying, the white-haired police chief bends down at Allison’s knees and tells her Terrence was his best friend. He’s so sorry.
None of it makes sense.
“How can he get shot in the shoulder and die?” she asks.
The deputy coroner explains that the bullet struck 2 inches above Terrence’s vest. The round careened at an angle, burst a lung and ravaged his spine.
Someone rubs Allison’s arm. She jerks away. She doesn’t want to feel comforted; she wants more information.
“I need to see him,” she demands.
The deputy coroner leaves the room and returns with an answer that Allison doesn’t want to hear. She can’t see her husband’s body now, he explains, because it is part of a murder investigation.
Emotions boil over. This is the man Allison has loved since age 16, when, as two teens from opposite sides of town, they would fall asleep on the phone together. This is the policeman who recognized the inherent dangers of his job and shaped his life around protecting his wife and son.
“If y’all can’t help me, and I can’t see my husband, I don’t wanna see anybody else," Allison says. "Take me home. Now.”
The nation awakens Oct. 4 to news that rocks the county of about 140,000 people, spread mostly around small towns. One officer killed and six wounded, the headlines read. Ambushes have claimed the lives of officers in recent years in cities such as Dallas and Baton Rouge, La. No one figured it would happen here.
It’s the most devastating blow to South Carolina law enforcement in recent memory. Officers throughout the state place black bands across their badges in mourning. Around the country, others as far as Washington state start making plans to travel here to honor a fallen lawman they’ve never met. They feel the gut punch of one of their own killed in the line of duty.
Arie wakes up in the ICU of Carolinas Hospital. Through the haze of pain medication, she sees her gaping wound for the first time. Pins hold her lower leg in place.
Hours earlier, doctors warned her parents before emergency surgery that they probably would need to amputate her lower leg. But her mom begged them to do everything they could. Her parents prayed. Surgeons saved the limb.
Now Arie cries at the sight of it.
She’ll continue to cry for what will feel like three weeks straight.
As details about the ambush unravel publicly, Arie avoids the news. She doesn’t know Terrence Carraway has died. She doesn’t know that Scott Williamson is hospitalized with a brain injury that will require three months of specialized care in Atlanta. She doesn’t know of the injuries to officers Brian Hart and Travis Scott, who were discharged the night of the shooting.
But she remembers that Farrah Turner, the mentor who inspired her to pursue a career in law enforcement, had been shot. Farrah is hospitalized 3 miles across town. Supporters rally, starting the hashtag #FightFarrahFight.
At dusk, hundreds of people pack a church in downtown Florence and share tearful remembrances of Terrence, the officer they’ve lost. They speak of a giant man with a generous heart — a peacemaker. They recall how he knew people in town by name, started a summer camp for disadvantaged children and mentored countless young men.
In the parking lot, mourners leave a tribute: a Florence police cruiser adorned with bouquets, balloons and a teddy bear. Next to it, a photo of Terrence in uniform rests on an easel.
The next day, the man implicated in the ambush hobbles into a small courtroom in Effingham. A chain around Fred Hopkins’ ankles clangs on the floor as he steps. Deputies hold his arms to steady him.
After the ambush, paramedics took him to a hospital for a head injury. Now in court for a bond hearing, both eyes sink into flesh bruised black and purple.
Later, Fred will tell The Post and Courier that SWAT team members who arrested him “viciously kicked and stomped me.”
Boone will say that perhaps Fred fell: “Think he might have tripped.”
Either way, Fred sits alone at a table before a magistrate. He hangs his head, eyes closed, facing a murder charge and six counts of attempted murder. Several hulking deputies stand along a wall, arms tightly folded, hard stares fixed on the accused killer. Fred slumps in his chair.
He blames their colleagues for the shooting and later will compare law enforcement officers who fired on his house to the Gestapo and the Soviet secret police, both known for vicious treatment of their citizens. He's outraged that the police fired hundreds of rounds at his house with his children inside.
The judge asks Fred if he understands where he is.
“No,” Fred mumbles, lifting his head. “Where am I?”
He requests a public defender, but the prosecutor objects, arguing that Fred lives in a palatial home, valued at $610,000, and doesn’t want for money.
Meanwhile, Seth also faces a judge that day on a charge related to the alleged sexual assault. Soon, he will face an additional count, this time involving a child under 11 years old.
In the ICU, Arie develops a routine of visiting Sarah every day. Hospital staff roll her to Sarah’s room, and vice versa. They talk and hug and even laugh together. The women grow close.
It’s not until Arie moves to a regular hospital room with a TV that she watches the news and learns the full severity of what happened Oct. 3. She believes God put her at the shooting for a reason, although she wonders what it is.
Visits from dignitaries such as Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Rep. Tom Rice lift her spirits.
She improves physically. Every day she walks a little farther with a walker. First, she aims to reach a window in the hallway. Then she adds on more and more steps.
Before she can leave for a rehab hospital, she’s determined to walk to a lobby on her floor. The effort is painful. One leg is seriously wounded from the gunshot, and doctors grafted skin from the other thigh to repair it. She feels like she can barely move either.
But, step by step, she reaches the lobby. People from other floors come to encourage her.
On Oct. 19, Arie learns she’s leaving Carolinas Hospital.
She and Sarah meet up in a hallway and hug. Sarah is being discharged, too. Arie tells her friend she loves her and that she’ll see her soon.
The women emerge in the main lobby, a three-story atrium. Arie is in a chair stretcher, Sarah in a wheelchair. Cheers erupt at the sight of them.
Arie wonders, What is everybody doing?
All around, people line balconies and staircases. There are relatives, police, nurses, doctors, community members. This fanfare is all for them.
Black and blue flags drape across Sarah and Arie’s laps as they’re wheeled out. The two clasp hands, just as they did in the ambulance 16 days earlier.
On Oct. 22, Farrah goes back into surgery. It is her ninth.
Doctors already have amputated both of her feet in a grueling battle to save the investigator who was so determined to save others. Given her weakening condition, each surgery forces an agonizing negotiation of risk and hope.
Farrah emerges from the surgery, yet again, still fighting — 19 days after she lay trapped by gunfire.
About two hours later, at a rehab hospital not far away, Arie’s father steps out of her room. When he returns, he has a look on his face.
Farrah has died, he says.
Arie begins to scream.
Their family is very close to Farrah’s. They attend the same church, Word of God Outreach Ministry, where Arie’s parents are lay leaders and Farrah’s uncle is pastor. It’s where Farrah first became a mentor to the young deputy.
Like Arie, Farrah was petite. But she was athletic and smart and showed Arie that she, too, could succeed in law enforcement. Barely acclimated to being home again, Arie faces Farrah’s funeral the following Sunday.
The hashtag supporting Farrah transitions from #FightFarrahFight to #FlyFarrahFly.
On Oct. 28, Farrah’s uncle, the Rev. Herbert Godwin, chokes up while delivering her eulogy.
Sheriff Boone describes how Farrah was more than an investigator to many. “She was family.” He makes it almost to the end of his remarks when he too stifles sobs and must pause.
“To Farrah, rest easy, my sweet girl,” he finally says. “We’ll take it from here.”
At Florence Memorial Gardens, thin blue and black ribbon wraps around a sign and the chapel’s columns. Terrence has already been laid to rest inside its mausoleum. Black and blue flowers perch beside his vault.
Out front, Farrah’s casket awaits burial.
A cemetery director releases a lone white dove. Instead of flying away, it soars around the grounds once, then returns to land atop her casket, a sentry.
As people mourn the two officers’ deaths, as Scott Williamson recuperates in Atlanta and Arie works hard to walk, the young woman who first met Farrah in the park struggles, too.
She hates the man she has accused of sexually assaulting her and her little sister. And she is left to grapple with the trauma of the shooting compounded by suffocating layers of guilt. Farrah had gone to the house to help her that day.
The young woman, like so many, had been praying for Farrah’s healing. Now she pours out her grief on Facebook: “I blame Myself for ever even telling Then maybe you would still be here.. My pain Runs Deeper then the ocean. I cried when they told me they amputated your feet but now Your walking In Heaven my hero!!!”
Around Thanksgiving, she meets one of Farrah’s brothers and calls it therapy for them both. Farrah, she is sure, “was dancing in the sky.”
But as Christmas approaches, she posts again: “A Part Of Me Died On Oct 3rd.”
Six months after the small caravan of deputies pulled into the cul-de-sac, the Hopkins’ boarded-up home looms over Vintage Place, an ever-present reminder for neighbors trying to move past the trauma of Oct. 3.
The sight of a moving truck sparks gossip. Are the Hopkins moving out?
No. Although the house has no electricity, family members appear to be living in it.
Neighbors who put their home on the market before the shootout now struggle to lock down a sale. Their house eventually sells, but the owner takes a hit financially. Others keep blue lights glowing outside their homes to show support for police.
Those who stay have a hard time putting the tragedy out of their minds. One day, the pop of gunshots through the woods behind the Hopkins’ home prompts a considerable response from deputies. But it’s just someone target shooting.
Meanwhile, Fred and Seth Hopkins remain jailed in Richland County, awaiting their trials. Additional charges are forthcoming in both the shooting and the sexual assault case, authorities say.
Sheriff Boone wants the solicitor to seek the death penalty for Fred. He has promised to help ensure that end to this terrible saga.
Yet he can't imagine how the community will truly move on as long as the Hopkins’ imposing home casts its shadow over the neighborhood.
He'd like to see the whole place bulldozed. Or seized and sold to benefit the shooting victims.
But it seems the Hopkins’ home will remain for now. It’s held in a family trust.